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5 Questions for Barbara McCall

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Posted by

Barbara McCall, 2nd from left front, and international students at the Capitol in Sacramento.

After 27 years at Sonoma State American Language Institute, first as an ESL instructor and for the past 15 years as international student coordinator, Barbara McCall retired at the end of the fall semester. Debra Crow, another part-time instructor, will take over her position.

During her tenure, McCall has worked with students from 50 countries, placing them in homestays and helping them adjust to American culture. Recently, the 50-year-old retiree shed light on the challenges and rewards of her gratifying career.

What were your responsibilities as the international student coordinator?

I did home visits, interviewed new families and matched them with students. I coordinated and accompanied students on field trips and also facilitated if any issues popped up. But I’m happy to say there have been very few problems. It has generally been a smooth ride.

Can you share some highlights or insights you have gained?

There have been so many cultures that I didn’t know much about: Arab, Ecuadorian, Mongolian, Russian. I’ve learned that there are wonderful people all around this world. Our students tend to be good ambassadors for their countries.

How does the location of Sonoma State and Rohnert Park inform the students’ experiences in the U.S.?

SSU is small enough to have a kind of family feel to it, but big enough that there’s plenty for students to do. In the eyes of parents enrolling a child from 10,000 miles away, Rohnert Park is a safe and tranquil suburban place. But the students can spend a day at the beach or a weekend in the city. They get the best of both worlds.

Barbara McCall, left, with international student Miri Aoji, at the holiday party

What have been the biggest challenges for students or families?

Culture shock and homesickness during the first month. The students miss their families, friends and the food, which can be very different. I’ve been the one to hold their hands and tell them, “What you’re going through is totally normal. You’ll get through this.”

What was most rewarding about your job?

The biggest reward is yet to come. All of the students have said that if I ever travel, I’ll have free room and board and a tour guide!

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Nick Walden is our Rohnert Park + Cotati correspondent.
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